Because of the COVID-19 situation at the prison, the San Quentin News newsroom has been shut down and staff members have been unable to meet to create new issues. The articles in this online issue were written by incarcerated staff members before the shutdown. This online version of the paper was published with the assistance of former San Quentin News incarcerated staff members, who have been released, and long-time volunteers, plus the support of San Quentin Public Information Officer Lt. Sam Robinson. When the emergency relents the paper will resume coverage.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt cleared the path for settlement negotiations in a wrongful conviction lawsuit brought by Lamont McIntyre—a man who served 23 years for a crime he did not commit.
“Because we knew there was evidence that was never placed in front of a court—before we just signed off on a claim—-we had an obligation to the new court to collect and review all of the evidence. We’ve now done that,” Schmidt said.
In an Associated Press interview, Schmidt said, ”My office made the decision after reviewing 900 pages of documents from Lamont McIntyer’s attorney that had not been provided previously.”
McIntyre was convicted for killing two men in broad daylight when he was 17 years old. He was sentenced to two life terms in prison, in a trial that provided no motive nor any physical evidence.
“Today’s decision by the Kansas Attorney General goes one step further, by recognizing that Lamonte qualifies for compensation under the Kansas statute,” Cheryl Pilate, McIntyre’s attorney said. She added, “Lamonte is still dealing with the effects of 23 years of wrongful imprisonment, but the funding and other support by the statute will now make his load a little easier to bear.”
Former Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, who signed the Wrongful-Conviction Compensation Law, apologized to Kansas’s exonerated men and added, “We will make it right.”
Based on the 2018 law, McIntyre may receive $65,000 for each year of imprisonment, attorney fees, health insurance benefits, financial assistance for higher education, fees for counseling and various other social services, the AP article noted.
McIntyre’s settlement claim, which is essentially a lawsuit involving the state, will still have to have its language reviewed by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and the top eight leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature before compensation can be allocated.
The elite Metro Division of the Los Angeles Police Department is under investigation for falsifying documents that identify people as gang members, newspaper stories report.
The probe was prompted by a mother who said police improperly identified her son as a gang member. The resulting preliminary investigation uncovered discrepancies between video recording of police stops and written reports.
“An officer’s integrity must be absolute,” Police Chief Michael Moore explained to civic leaders from South Los Angeles who demanded changes. “There is no place in the department for any individual who would purposely falsify information on a department report.”
Metro officers assigned to patrol South Los Angeles are suspected of falsifying data, after interviews with people stopped in the field, and inputting incorrect information about those questioned to bolster statistics, a Jan. 6 Los Angeles Times article reported.
The investigation began after a San Fernando Valley mother received a written notice in 2019 that her son had been identified as a gang member and added to the CalGang criminal intelligence system, the LASentinel.net reported Jan. 23.
Believing her son misidentified she reported the mistake to someone in a supervisory capacity at the Van Nuys Police station.
According to the LAPD, that supervisor reviewed the circumstances, including the footage from the body camera along with other information, and found that the officer’s report did not match up with the facts, the story said.
The mother who first brought this to the attention of the department was notified that her son was misidentified as a gang member and any documentation to that effect would be deleted.
These events led to an internal investigation focused on three officers, but has since grown in the coming months to include as many as 20, LASentinel.net reported.
The office of the LAPD Inspector General uncovered additional false documentation by the same officers, as well as others, the story said.
All the officers involved were assigned to the Metropolitan Division, “Given the serious nature of the alleged misconduct, all involved officers have been assigned to inactive duty or removed from the field,” the story reported.
An investigation by the Los Angeles Times published last year revealed Metro officers stopped African American drivers at a rate five time their share of the city’s population.
LAPD has historically targeted and criminalized men of color; this has to stop, a group of community leaders said during a meeting with Chief Moore, the LASentinel noted.
Those assembled did not mince words when they outlined their concerns, blaming the LAPD and racist cops as the problem, asking that all the officers involved be fired and that the gang data base CalGang be eradicated.
Moore said he was not in agreement with eliminating the gang data base, which was created and is maintained by the States Attorney General’s Office.
He does however want changes to the CalGang protocols, such as changing the way officers document individuals as gang associates and eliminating officers and informants as reliable sources, the LASentinel article reported.
In 2015 the size of the Metro unit was doubled to about 200 officers, to combat a surge in violent crime throughout the city.
Moore said Metro’s vehicle stops had not proved effective, netting about one arrest for every 100 cars stopped, with innocent drivers complaining they were being racially profiled, the Times reported.
The union which represents officers released a statement saying that it was “aware of reports of discrepancies contained on a limited number of field interview cards that the department is looking into.” The statement also said that the union expects Moore “will oversee a thorough and fair process to determine the facts and to also ensure that any impacted officer is accorded his or her due process rights,” the Times article reported.
As a result of the statistics, LAPD announced last fall that it will reduce the number of random vehicle stops, Metro officers will instead track down suspects wanted in violent offenses and use strategies other than vehicle stops to address flareups in crimes such as burglaries and shootings, the story notes.
Attending the meeting were Michael Lawson, president of L.A. Urban League Yvonne Wheeler, labor leader; Khalid Shah, executive director of Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace; Horace E. Frank, assistant police chief, director LAPD Special Operations; Charisse Bremond-Weaver, Brotherhood Crusade president; Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, representative for the Nation of Islam Western Region; Danny Bakewell, publisher of the L.A. Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times.
Prison officials throughout the country are restricting reading materials in prison libraries. The state of Florida has banned 20,000 titles, and Texas has banned 10,000 titles, claiming that the prohibited reading material could stir up disorder.
Officials say there has been an uptick of drug smuggling via books, whose pages can be soaked with synthetic marijuana of other potentially dangerous liquids. Dozens of prison staffers have been sent to the emergency room with tingling skin, headaches and dizziness after handling inmates belongings.
In September 2018 Pennsylvania banned all book donations for prison libraries — New York, Maryland and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have implemented similar policies. Washington state banned most used books from its prisons but backtracked due to public outrage.
A report by PEN America protested restrictions around the country, declaring the situation so arbitrary and sweeping as to effectively be the nation’s largest book ban. Texas prisons have prohibited Where’s Waldo and a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets because of racy illustrations. California officials have banned issues of the New Yorker, Atlantic and Rolling Stone magazines, citing nudity in cartoons and art work. Prison officials banned one issue of Rolling Stone because it had a photograph of a blow-up doll.
Mother Jones magazine reported as early as the late 1700s prisoners received religious texts to encourage their rehabilitation. In the 1940s, California prison librarian Herman Spector pushed the theory of bibliotherapy, which held that prisoners could be reformed through reading. Dr. C.V. Morrison recommended book prescriptions for prisoners. Parole officials at San Quentin Prison took library records into account when deciding parole eligibility.
According to a 2014 study by psychologists, bibliotherapy in jails and prisons helped to reduce prisoner’s depression and psychological distress. A former prisoner of Maryland, Vince Greco, said time spent in the library was “the only freedom” he had. The head librarian of Maryland prisons, Glennor Shirley, found that prisoners with access to good library services were less likely to file lawsuits about prison conditions.
Shirley resigned in 2011 because of funding cuts. During the recession the budget was reduced from $200,000 a year to almost nothing. Today another prison librarian, who asked not to be named, said large facilities get about $1,000 a year for recreational books. Illinois spent $276 on non-legal books for its 28 facilities in 2017 compared to $750,000 annually in the early 2000s.
The Prison Literature Project (PLP) received about five to 10 letters a month when it started in the 1980s. Today it receives thousands from around the country. PLP volunteers in Berkeley receive requests for everything from Harry Potter series, Marvel Comics, Stephen King and dictionaries.
But, many books never reach their intended recipients. Security rules in most prisons prohibit hardcover books because they can conceal contraband. Books about sex, racism, violence and gambling are often off limits. Prison Legal News magazine has to go to the courts to overturn bans by California and Florida.
Some departments encourage prisoners to read on tablets to avoid the problems of paper. Pennsylvania prisoners can choose from more than 8,500 e-books through vendor GTL. Tablets cost $150 and titles that can be downloaded for free outside of prison costs as much as $24.99. In West Virginia prisoners receive the tablets for free but are charged three cents a minute to read them, even though the books would be free online.
According to Mother Jones skimping on reading does not make sense if the goal is to help people stay out of trouble later. In 1991 Massachusetts launched a program that diverted offenders from prison if they completed a reading and discussion course. An early study of the program, which expanded to parts of Texas, New York and other states, found just 18% of participants were convicted of another crime, compared with 45% of a control group.
Law professor Heidi Rummel fights to give thousands of men and women a second chance—many of them sentenced decades ago to life-terms for crimes committed as youths.
As co-director of the University of Southern California’s Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP), Rummel teaches and leads a team of certified law student interns. They represent incarcerated clients in courtrooms and parole boards throughout California.
“I fell in love with the work,” said Rummel. “I first started working with women at CIW [California Institute for Women] back when no one was going home.
“We’d take these women to the parole board and hear their stories, and I could see for myself that they were just amazing human beings—truly amazing people.
That’s when Rummel started to realize the systemic hurdles she was up against statewide. The legal battles weren’t simply case by case—there was fierce legislative advocacy work that needed to get done.
“You can’t just keep denying people parole forever—based on their crime,” she said. “That’s essentially LWOP [life without the possibility of parole].”
Together with Elizabeth Calvin of Human Rights Watch, Rummel committed herself to “heavy policy work.”
They came and sat side by side with KidCAT members for the first time at a San Quentin symposium in 2012.
Original KidCAT member Nou Phang Thao remembers the impact Rummel made.
“Heidi’s an exceptional person,” he said. “I’ll never forget hearing her say she believes every child who commits a crime—any crime—deserves a second chance.
“That meant so much to me—to know there was someone out there who believes in us, even before we learn to believe in ourselves.”
Calvin and Rummel spent hours listening to the stories of youth offenders, who, at the time, faced little hope of ever getting released.
Since then, PCJP has co-sponsored or authored almost every juvenile justice reform bill in California.
Thanks to Senate Bill 9, SB 260, SB 261 and SB 394, youth offenders sentenced to LWOP and life-term sentences are now allowed the chance to appear before the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) after serving 24 years.
“These laws recognize that young adults should be treated differently,” said Rummel.
When Rummel spoke to KidCAT about her experience as a parole attorney for PCJP, the guys half-joked with her that she should represent their fellow member, Gary Scott, who was approaching his first BPH.
“She took down his information and promised us she’d do it,” said Thao. With Rummel’s guidance and support, Scott was found suitable for parole later that year.
PCJP’s co-director Michael Brennan currently oversees students working to get Thao successfully through his own BPH difficulties.
“The best piece of advice Heidi gave us was ‘Do not buy a cell phone,’” said Thao. “Man, later I had to write her a letter apologizing for getting caught with one.”
Rummel holds workshops at prisons all over California to help youth offenders who never believed they’d be offered any legitimate chance at freedom prepare for their BPH.
Because they thought they’d be locked up for the rest of their lives, many of these youth offenders spent much of their incarceration not caring at all about positive programming or rehabilitation.
“They never thought about parole,” said Rummel. “At the higher security prisons, they simply had no access or exposure to anything but violence, gang activity and substance abuse.”
Rummel mentioned one of her clients, Ruben Ruiz. Involved in gang activity from the age of 13, Ruiz entered the prison system with LWOP for a murder committed when he was 17.
Despite his record of violence and illegal behavior behind bars, Ruiz became eligible for parole and earned his release—with Rummel’s help—in 2017.
And after 25 years of incarceration, Ruiz became one of the men who returns to prison with the PCJP workshops.
“These guys need to share their experiences with each other,” Rummel explained. “We bring them together in our workshops so they can open up and see their own vulnerability.”
Bringing formerly incarcerated LWOP and life-term youth offenders face-to-face with their currently incarcerated peers might be the most powerful component of the workshops.
“It’s amazing when they see someone who survived the process and was able to go home,” she said. “They can’t believe this is true until they meet one in person.”
One incarcerated participant met Ruiz and called him a “unicorn”—something people talk about and hear stories about, but never see. Rummel brings these unicorns into prisons to show the real possibility of second chances.
“She’s one of those unsung heroes who does so many things that impact so many other people,” said Anthony Ammons, a KidCAT member and one of Rummel’s PCJP clients at San Quentin.
Sentenced to 102 years-to-life for crimes committed when he was 16, Ammons had his sentence commuted by then Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018 and appeared before a BPH panel in 2019.
Rummel visited Ammons several times to prepare him for the board’s scrutiny.
“She gave me the confidence to start believing in myself,” said Ammons. “Just having her tell me that she believed in me—that helped a lot.”
But when Ammon did face the BPH, they issued him a three-year denial.
“Heidi was so angry when she heard the decision,” he said. “I think she was even angrier than I was at the time.
“That made it a whole lot easier for me to feel okay with what happened.”
Rummel wants all her clients—and, really, anyone going before the BPH—to have a firm grasp on what they’ll be required to speak on.
“There are three questions you need to answer—simple questions with really difficult answers,” she said. “What did you do? Why did you do it? And how have you changed?”
In the workshops and one-on-one visiting sessions, Rummel and her team encourage the deep introspection necessary to achieve full accountability and honesty.
“Fully own your part and understand your crime,” she said. “What was the impact? What was the harm? The board already knows, more or less, what you did.
“They’re trying to figure out, ‘Are you going to do it again?’ There’s always the assumption—right or wrong—that if you don’t know why you did it, you’ll most likely do it again.”
Rummel says it’s ultimately about understanding the choices one made and being able to take responsibility for those choices.
“What happened while they were growing up?” she continued. “Why did they have a gun, join a gang? Was there some underlying shame that led them to commit their crime?”
When Rummel sits down with her clients to prepare them for the board, she never lets them skirt around these issues.
“She made me see my crime and really myself from a clearer perspective. Now I understand why I did what I did,” said Ammons. “I can connect all the pieces that contributed to my thought process at the time, my belief systems.
“Having the eyes of an ex-prosecutor, Heidi catches everything—and calls you on it. Nothing slips past her.”
Rummel chuckled at what she called her “deep dark secret.”
“I was a federal prosecutor for the first half of my career,” she said. “And, I felt good about my work as a district attorney. We prosecuted a lot of hate crimes and police misconduct.”Rummel spoke fondly of her time working with Eric Holder in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“At the beginning under [President] Clinton, we were taking over a very Republican office,” she said. “Holder always told us, ‘If you don’t think it’s just, go to the next level. Go to me.’
“I’m not going to say I did it perfectly, of course. But, I like to say we were fighting for justice.”
Calvin and Russell recently went to Sacramento to voice their opinions at an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on Jan. 14.
Two proposed bills, AB 665 and AB 1641, aimed to bring back LWOP sentencing for juveniles and demolish the Youth Offender Parole process.
“The committee voted them down, so those bills are dead,” said Rummel. “Last year, it didn’t even reach a committee vote.
“But there’s a lot of interest in Sacramento right now to roll back the gains we have made.”
By Brian Corder Journalism Guild Writer
A Jewish Death Row prisoner’s execution won a reprieve after allegations that the trial judge was anti-Semitic and frequently used racial slurs.
The reprieve came six days before the scheduled execution of Randy Halprin, The Associated Press reported. Halprin was a member of the “Texas 7,” a group that escaped from a South Texas prison in 2000.
The “Texas 7” commit- ted numerous robberies; one resulted in the death of Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins, who was shot 11 times. As officers closed in, one of the seven killed himself just before the six-week man- hunt ended in Colorado. The remaining six, including Halprin, were convicted of kill- ing Hawkins and sentenced to death.
Halprin claims his trial judge, Vickers Cunningham, used racial slurs and anti- Semitic language to refer to Halprin and the other “Texas 7” prisoners.
He was scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Oct. 10,2019. However, The Texas Court of Appeals granted a stay of execution on Oct. 4, 2019. The appellant court vacated the decision and remanded Halprin’s case back to the Dallas County court that convicted him, with instructions to review his claim of the trial judges’ biased against Halprin for being Jewish.
He is seeking a new trial.
One of Halprin’s attorneys, Tivon Schardl, said in a statement, “Today’s deci- sion to stay Randy Halprin’s scheduled execution is a signal that bigotry and bias are unacceptable in the criminal justice system.”
As it relates to California, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People reports there are 2,721 people on Death Row as of October 2018. By halting the Death Penalty in California, Gov. Galvin Newsom’s moratorium affected more than a quarter of the country’s Death Row prisoners. California’s Death Row population is 737 prisoners.
As of May 2019, the United States had executed 1,476 since 1976, according to the Washington Post. Meanwhile, 162 Death Row prisoners have been exonerated.
A campaign is under way to increase from 18 to 20 the age where young people accused of crimes are processed as juveniles instead of adults.
“Young adults would benefit more from the juvenile system and early diversion programs than adult incarceration,” said Stephanie James, president of the Chief Probation Officers of California. “Such diversion programs have proven successful, and have been used for decades,”
The plan is to introduce legislation in 2020 in an effort to see more juveniles benefitting from rehabilitative programs, the Chronicle of Social Change reported on Dec. 12.
Researchers have reported that a person’s brain is still developing between the ages of 18 and 24, the story said. That group makes up 10% of the U.S. population.
“We’ve been working on this for almost a year. We want to build on what works and what has been successful. (It’s about) evolving, elevating, keeping the things that we’re trying to expand on … that’s really at the heart of what we’re trying to build on,” said Karen Pank, CPOC executive director.
Young people are prone to be more impulsive, less future-oriented, volatile in emotionally charged set- tings; and highly susceptible to peer and outside influences, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Between 75 and 95% of system-involved youth “exhibit symptoms of trauma due to exposure to violence,” the article noted.
The plan is opposed by the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Its executive director, Daniel Macallair, said the change is “just a strategy to fill the juvenile halls.”
Juvenile halls in California are operating now at about 25% of capacity, said Macallair.
The proposal, called the Elevate Justice Act, would also seal more juvenile records, re- quire probation departments to petition for termination of probation, and expand probation-supervised restorative justice programs, the article noted.
“They’re right at the threshold where they’re starting to close juvenile justice halls and promote community reinvestment. Raising the age to 20 would ensure that the juvenile justice system pre- serves itself, and everybody stays happy, under the illusion that there’s some progressive reform, “Macallair said.
“The state legislature has placed a great emphasis on brain development in recent years as it has pursued a bevy of juvenile justice reforms, and I believe that any proposal that recognizes the difference in the brain development of juveniles and adults is worth full discussion,” said Reginald Jones-Sawyer Sr., Democratic chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
Jones-Sawyer also reported he believes that punishment should be our last resort for juveniles.
Juveniles in county-run facilities have dropped from a high of about 4,000 to about 800 youth over the past 15 years, according to data from the Board of State and Community Corrections.
Across the country, prisoners and their advocates contend that prison law libraries provide inadequate access to legal resources, according to an article by Law360.
The United States Supreme Court established that prisons must provide inmates with “adequate law books or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law” in the 1977 case Bounds v. Smith. But, most states provide only limited, local and outdated materials, and even those can be difficult to obtain.
Anders Ganten, a Lexis-Nexis executive in charge of providing electronic legal resources to departments of corrections, testified in a South Dakota federal court that prisoners are often restricted to legal opinions from their own state and only from their state’s supreme court and its federal court jurisdictions,
Wisconsin prisoner Gregory Tucker filed a lawsuit in the state of Wisconsin alleging that the state considers law library access a “leisure activity.” Tucker had to apply for a special pass to use the library, which he said hindered his access to resources he had a right to use.
But, a 1996 Supreme Court decision, Lewis v. Casey, makes it difficult to challenge the adequacy of a prison’s law library. The decision states that a prisoner must prove that a specific shortfall in a prison library hindered his or her case.
Tucker lost his case. In its decision the court said, “The plaintiff has not alleged any facts indicating that he is suffering any- thing more than an inconvenience in being allowed to go to the prison library only once a week,” according to Law360.
States often cut corners to satisfy Bounds v. Smith while spending as little money as possible. South Dakota, for example, got rid of its old system of providing a contract lawyer to inmates, and instead now provides inmates with tablets, which saves about $200,000.
Despite the fact that South Dakota inmates lack both physical libraries and trained professionals, the tablets will provide them greater access to resources than those in many other states. Tablets, provided they are functional and haven’t been confiscated, allow access to law library data bases 24/7.
Margo Schlanger, a civil rights expert at the University of Michigan Law School, believes access to courts for prisoners would improve if federal and state authorities adopt common guidelines and set universal standards for law library materials, hours of operation and other procedures.
Thousands of people have gone to prison or face criminal charges based on questionable testimony from law enforcement officers, USA Today reports.
“At least 300 prosecutors’ offices are not taking steps necessary to comply with the Supreme Court mandate” that prosecutors must tell anyone accused of a crime about all evidence that might help their defense at trial, the newspaper reported Oct. 17.
“That includes sharing details about police officers who have committed crimes, lied on the job or whose honesty has been called into doubt,” the story stated.
The newspaper reported its investigation found that many police departments and prosecutors failed to track problem officers. The investigation partners included the Invisible Institute.
The year-long probe in thousands of counties measured compliance with the 1963 Brady v. Maryland Supreme Court decision.
That decision resulted when prosecutors did not reveal to John L. Brady his crime partner had confessed to committing the murder in which John had been charged. This omission of information should have been part of the discovery given to defendants prior to trial, the decision said.
Because Brady’s crime partner admitted he had done actual killing, the Supreme Court ruled this omission of discovery denied Brady due process as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment. The ruling is an extension of Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S., where the court ruled that nondisclosure by a prosecutor violates due process.
The story refers to the case of Revat Vara, who was pulled over in 2006 by a Houston police officer for a missing license plate. Vara passed a sobriety test, but police officer William Lindsey said otherwise. At trial, jurors were told about Vara’s two previous DWIs. What jurors were not told was that officer Lindsey had been found guilty of misconduct by his department 35 times, and was investigated for padding his overtime by manipulating DWI arrests so he would be called to testify.
Vara’s case came down to one man’s word against another, and the jury believed Officer Lindsey. Because of prior convictions, Vara was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He spent a decade in prison for a crime he did not commit, his attorney said.
Places that do not track dishonest or untrustworthy officers include large cities such as Chicago and Little Rock, and small venues such as Jackson County, Minn., and Columbia County, Pa.
In some places that keep lists, police and prosecutors refuse to make them public. USA Today identified at least 1,200 officers with proven histories of lying and other serious misconduct, who had not been flagged by prosecutors. It reported 261 officers were specifically disciplined for dishonesty on the job.
The National Registry of Exonerations shows that cases overturned because of perjury and misconduct by prosecutors or police more than doubled from 2008 to 2018.
Police unions are especially outspoken opponents to Brady requirements, the story said. The union representing Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies went to court to stop the department from disclosing 300 officers with misconduct histories. The California State Supreme Court ruled against the deputies in August.
Twenty-five Baltimore officers were investigated last year because of mis- conduct charges, the newspaper noted. Baltimore prosecutors recently began asking the courts to vacate nearly 800 convictions that involved questionable testimony.
Since 1988, data from the National Registry of Exoneration shows 987 people have been convicted, then exonerated, in cases involving a combination of official misconduct by prosecutors and perjury or a false statement by police or other witnesses. The 987 unlawfully convicted spent an average of 12 years behind bars, according to USA Today.
A new artificial intelligence (AI) system targets key words and phrases during monitored phone calls from inside prisons and jails, according to an ABC News article.
Sheriffs’ and wardens’ nationwide use AI technology to aid in unsolved crimes such as drug smuggling, attempted suicides and violence in real time.
Legally mandated warnings precede every phone call to inform the patrons their call is being recorded. A vast amount of inmates still reveals incriminating information, according to data given to ABC news by the technology company.
“If I got to stay longer than November…I’m killing all of them when I get out…and I mean it,” said one person during a phone call, according to the article.
Corrections officials in Alabama intercepted a phone call in which a prisoner instructed his wife on how to smuggle Suboxone, an opioid withdrawal aid, into the prison. He told her to first dilute it in water, then use a makeup brush to paint it on postcards to be mailed into the prison. This is just one of many situations in which inmates have made incriminating statements via a previously warned recorded call.
The AI systems in these cases utilized speech-recognition technology, semantic analytics and machine learning software. The system then builds an expanding database of searchable words, part of a global revolution in neural networks, the article stated.
The prison phone system is a $1.2 billion a year industry, according to data by the Prison Policy Initiative. It was also once used to track the locations of people called by the inmates until the U.S. Supreme court ruled that practice illegal.
“One of the biggest operational issues has been the lack of staffing to monitor every single call,”
LEO Technologies is the leader in this innovative technology and has its own investigation division outside of the prison system. This division feeds the databases with keywords, phrases and prison slang based on the region and area of the prison. LEO Technologies then promptly notifies its law enforcement partners if the system picks up phrasing or suspicious language. The technology is near real time and offers rapid response. The company states that it has thwarted dozens of attempted suicides the past two years over several states.
GTL and Securus, the nation’s two largest providers of phone service to prisons and jails, are developing their own call analytics technologies. LEO, which contracts with GTL, is operating in five U.S. states, according to company officials.
Prison pressing priorities are (1) controlling prison contraband, (2) inmate attacks on infrastructure security systems, and (3) unmonitored inmate communication. This data was provided by a National Institute of Justice study of our nation’s nearly 7,000 correctional institutions. The data was published this year by the RAND Corporation, according to the article.
“One of the biggest operational issues that has plagued this industry of automated inmate telephone recording has been the lack of staffing to monitor every single call,” said John Shaffer, a corrections technology expert. “And frankly, most inmate calls are innocuous.”
“There (have) been different approaches over the years,” he said. “I remember Walla Walla penitentiary out in the state of Washington used to have officers sitting there in the towers at night listening to inmate calls for hours and hours – and that was their solution. And it never really worked as an operational opportunity.”
LEO Technologies’ system can range in price, generally between $500,000 and $600,000 a year per 1,000 inmates monitored in the facility in which is installed.
Jails and prisons “are looking at this very seriously, and several are using it – trying to figure out the right balance and mix of human and technology,” said Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriff’s Association.